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Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man? Does the question "Am I my...

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lilahrose8248 | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted November 27, 2012 at 8:49 PM via web

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Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man? Does the question "Am I my brother's keeper?" apply to the characters in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 27, 2012 at 11:11 PM (Answer #1)

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John Steinbeck created two unforgettable characters in Of Mice and Men.  Steinbeck delves into the subjects of friendship and sacrifice.  George Milton and Lennie Small are inseparable.  George is a clever man who takes care of the mentally deficient Lennie.  Without George, Lennie would not be able to survive out in the world. 

Lennie lived with his Aunt Clara.  George roomed with Aunt Clara as well. When Aunt Clara passed away, she asked George to take care of Lennie. He accepted the responsibility but resultingly has had nothing but trouble because of Lennie.

The reader immediately recognizes that Lennie’s intelligence and huge size make for a dangerous combination. Unfortunately, Lennie is not aware of his own strength, so he usually breaks or scares whatever he tries to touch.  A girl thought he was going to harm her and she cried rape; he squashes a puppy; he pinches a mouse’s head and keeps it in his pocket; and finally, he breaks a woman’s neck. George is always there to protect and defend Lennie. 

Most of the time, Lennie does exactly what George says.  However, with his low IQ, he acts like a young child; he is sneaky and lies about the things that he does wrong.  George has a dream of owning a farm.  He has shared this with Lennie and that is always on Lennie’s mind.

George is Lennie’s caretaker.  He is a good man who treats Lennie as though he were his brother.  It is obvious that George likes the company of Lennie, as well as the responsibility for him. Every time that Lennie does something bad, George covers for him.  When Lennie made the girl think that he was going to rape her, George and Lennie ran out of town and found work in another place. 

In the Bible, Cain is questioned about where his brother is.  He answers by saying: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” George has become Lennie’s keeper and must take ultimate responsibility for him. In this case, Lennie and George's relationship exemplifies a man fulfilling his obligation to take care of his fellow man.

Candy, Curley’s wife, has pretty blonde hair.  When she discovers that Lennie has killed a puppy, Candy tries to console him. Without George around, Lennie wants to touch her hair but goes too far. Candy begins to cry out.  To keep her from alerting anyone else, Lennie strangles her.  George cannot get him out of this situation. He tells Lennie to go to the river and wait on him.

Here is George’s dilemma.  If Curley finds him, he will be hurt or hurt someone else.  George decides rather than put Lennie through a trial or torture or an execution, he will take the ultimate responsibility and put Lennie out of his misery.  He borrows a gun from one of the other workers and goes to meet Lennie at the river.  George places Lennie on the bank and tells him to think about the rabbits and the farm. 

‘Go on,’ said Lennie. ‘How’s it gonna be.  We gonna get a little place. And I get to tend the rabbits.’

‘An’you get to tend the rabbits. Look down there across the river, like you can almost see the place.’

Lennie said, ‘I thought you was mad at me, George.’

And George raised the gun and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’ head.  The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied.  He pulled the trigger.  Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand.

Of course, George is devastated, but the other workers take him off to get a drink.  Even though it was against the laws of God, for Lennie, this was the only way that George could take care of his brother.

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